Transcript: Karajarri – Living with native title in the West Kimberley

Video length: 6 minutes, 58 seconds

Speakers: Joe Edgar, Claire Stacey

Joe Edgar: The Bidyadanga community sits within the, surrounded by the Frasier Downs pastoral lease which is owned by the traditional owner group, the Karajarri traditional elder group. Karajarri country is, for us, big country to look after.

It’s very important for us, for a lot of reasons, for cultural reasons we want to maintain cultural heritage, teach our kids. A lot of the knowledge has been passed down through the generations from our Dreamtime. We want to maintain those stories. Also, the cultural side of it, but also the environmental side of it, we want to make sure we don’t damage our environment too adversely. We’re finding ways to utilise some of the more important plants, like our bush medicines and stuff.

It’s a certain type of mangrove that we pick these fruit and you bury it up in the mud because they have a lot of toxins in them, so we bury it up, cover it up with the leaves, to keep it clean, and the tide comes over it, a couple of tides, maybe two or three days, and we come back and there is a black slick that’s all the salt, and the mud extracts all the toxins. We get the fruit and we wash it and we can boil it up and eat it as a meal.

Claire Stacey: AIATSIS has been working with Karajarri people since about 2008. This research project was really looking at the experience of a PBC in managing native title, so how Karajarri manage their governance, their relationships with external parties, how they manage the administration of the PBC and also looking at what Karajarri people wanted to benefit, how they wanted to benefit from native title.

Joe Edgar: We’re finding PBC is becoming very important to us. It means Prescribed Body Corporate in the native title legislation. It gives us a voice. It allows our elders to come together and to advise government and create a forum for our members to sit at and create policies of looking after people and country, so it’s very important.

Claire Stacey: There wasn’t much known in the research space or documented about how PBCs were actually operating on the ground. In the case of PBCs having their stories heard, can be used as a tool to engage with government to lobby and argue for better policies for PBCs.

Joe Edgar: Our major challenge is administratively. It’s in administration. We’re starting to come together and create policies so we’re able to look after the various cultural interests that we have, like the IPA programs and working on country stuff. Looking after our people like through the Yirriman project. The Yirriman project is part of the Kimberley Law and Culture Service project. That particular project has become so important. It includes our rangers, our elders and obviously our young people so we’re able transfer knowledge. We’ve been operating now for about 14 years since 2001 when we got our native title. We’ve been looking after country. We’ve created a ranger program, an IPA program (an Indigenous Protected Area) Program.

Jessica Bangu: In places we’ve been putting up signs and with the bush tucker and whatever food sources we have around the area and help tourists to read as well and know they are on Aboriginal country, like Karajarri country and a few of the signs on how they can help us maintain.

Joe Edgar: I was very fortunate to be around in fact, when AIATSIS came along and wanted to do research work with our people and elders and that, to get our stories together and come to realise how important academics had come along and tell our stories for us in a way we wanted it to be told. Hopefully that will influence the government and other people that want to come onto country and affect the way we live.

One of the most significant things to come out of our relationship with AIATSIS is through the climate change research that your academics have come and work with us on. We can have a more conscious look at what is happening in our environment.

Jacqueline Shovellor: What I learnt from our people and they tell us what to get at the right time and what not to get at the right time.

Joe Edgar: I think we’ve been very fortunate that AIATSIS has come along at the time they did and given us that medium and the voice to talk about all these import issues, climate change, cultural heritage stuff. Pretty much everything we’re on about, we want to continue that relationship we’ve got a lot of stories to tell.